A TWW Tutorial on How to Spot a Controlling Bully: Matt Chandler Fires Acts 29 CEO Steve Timmis


Galactic Pyrotechnics From 23 Million Light Years AwayNGC 4258  NASA link

“Not all forms of abuse leave bruises.” link


 

This week begins a number of posts which have some links to the very beginning of this blog. TWW first wrote about Acts 29 in 2010:  Big Papa D and the SBC  (forgive the old formatting.) Of course it was about Mark Driscoll, Acts 29  and his nonsense. All of our local SBC dudebros: Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary: Danny Akin and JD Greear were supportive of Acts 29. Interestingly, Matt Chandler shows up in support of this network led by Driscoll who actually was the one who brought this group together.

Throughout the years, TWW has documented in post after post, the inherent problems of authoritarian leadership and predatory practices in taking over churches. This post in 2013 was especially Is Acts 29 Planting or Decimating Churches?

The more we read and documented, the more convinced I became that Acts 29 is simply one of several entities that do things exactly in the same way. This includes 9 Marks, The Gospel Coalition, Desiring God  and and any number of other Reformed Baptist and PCA churches led by those who consider themselves part of the Young, Restless and Reformed movement. Sadly, these men are no longer young and many of them wear their skinny jeans hiked up under their increasing girth. Oh yes, then there are the costly sneakers…

Acts 29 has long been known for its heavy handed leadership style. I remember when Matt Chandler took over the network. The rejoicing was loud and unrestrained. Chandler was then known as the Pope of the YRR set except the pope starting exhibiting signs that his DNA was not much different than Mark Driscoll’s genes. There was the:

I could go on and on. It has been evident to me since the Narcissistic Zero incident that Matt Chandler was an authoritarian bully and that we would continue to see problem after problem with him which bring us to the real meat of this story.

Steve Timmis fired as CEO of Acts 29 as reported by Christianity Today.

Acts 29 CEO Removed Amid ‘Accusations of Abusive Leadership’

This was subtitled: “Steve Timmis was acclaimed for his model of close church community. But former members claim that inside The Crowded House, he resorted to bullying and control.”

Here are some quotes from the article.

  • Fifteen people who served under Timmis described to Christianity Today a pattern of spiritual abuse through bullying and intimidation, overbearing demands in the name of mission and discipline, rejection of critical feedback, and an expectation of unconditional loyalty.
  • Inter-Varsity Press UK will no longer sell Timmis’s titles (including Total Church and Everyday Church, both co-written with Tim Chester), citing “that the style of close church community advocated in these books lacked sufficient safeguards against abusive control” and apologizing for them possibly contributing to “unhealthy and even abusive church cultures.”]
  • He recalled being berated for making travel plans without consulting with Timmis first. He was told he was rejecting discipline and choosing to be “a law unto himself,” a signature Timmis phrase (originating from Romans 2:14) that former members repeated in multiple stories.
  • To go from being inside a highly relational, tight community to being considered an “ungospeled” and rebellious outsider can be traumatic. “We at one point thought it was easier to leave the country than the church,” said Murphy, who belonged to The Crowded House for more than 13 years. It felt impossible to avoid his former church community in day-to-day activities like school pickups and neighborhood walks. (His family now has plans to move to Belfast.)

Matt Chandler fired five critics of Steve Timmis who came to him for help. He mirrored Timmis’ bullying style.

Apparently 5 staff members complained to Chandler that Timmis was a bully. And Matt Chandler, acting as the supreme bully, fired them all.

  • According to a copy of a 2015 letter sent to Acts 29 president Chandler and obtained by CT, five staff members based in the Dallas area described their new leader as “bullying,” “lacking humility,” “developing a culture of fear,” and “overly controlling beyond the bounds of Acts 29,” with examples spanning 19 pages.
  • During a meeting with Chandler and two board members to discuss the letter, all five were fired and asked to sign non-disclosure agreements as a condition of their severance packages. They were shocked. ( Ed note:I wasn’t-it’s classical Chandler.)

Chandler played the “I didn’t know it” card.

I don’t believe Chandler. He was well aware of Timmis’ abusive style since, in my opinion, it mirrors Chandler’s modus operandi.

A tutorial on how to evaluate Steve Timmis’ church, The Crowded House, for clues that this guy might be a spiritual abuser.

Google his name and see which ministries admire him.

There is one thing I always do before evaluating the church website. I like to see if the person I’m looking at hangs around or is admired by other concerning ministries. In this case, I searched Steve Timmis and Sovereign Grace churches and came up with some links. It is obvious he is admired in this ministry which I believe has a history of abuse and authoritarian leadership. This is not proof. Only a clue.

Go to his church website: The Crowded House link

I believe one should spend at least 20-30 minutes reviewing a church website prior to visiting the church for the first time. These websites often give enough information for the reader to spot red flags. In this case, I am looking for potential clues to point towards the potential for controlling and abusive behavior.

Steve Timmis has been dumped from Crowded House and the church *intends* to hire *someone* to explore what happened and make recommendations.

We write with a concern for the reputation of Christ and a desire to care for his people.

Steve Timmis, the founder of The Crowded House, has been transitioned out of his role with Acts 29 following allegations about his leadership style. This was followed by an article in Christianity Today about his conduct in the church. On Friday 7th February Steve Timmis resigned as an elder of The Crowded House. We have valued his ministry among us and his role in founding the church. Many of us owe him a personal debt.

We also feel the weight of the stories told in the article. It is therefore our intention to ask someone from outside our network to explore what has happened and make recommendations. It will be for that person to shape the process, but we want to listen to all concerned with humility. We are willing to hear where we may have failed people. We recognise the need to open ourselves up to external and impartial scrutiny.

– The remaining elders of The Crowded House churches.
Sunday 9th February 2020

That’s really good but…my understanding that one of the elders is related to him and the other two elders are quite young. So, do not take this as a sign that they are taking care of the mess. Wait and see who is selected to *make recommendations.* In the meantime, do some of your own research.

They intend to control you.

Again, on the home page (they are making this easy for me) read this.


Red Flag

One must look at the church as one’s family. This means that significant decisions that impact the family must be considered. If you read the entire CT article, you will see this example.

He recalled being berated for making travel plans without consulting with Timmis first. He was told he was rejecting discipline and choosing to be “a law unto himself,” a signature Timmis phrase (originating from Romans 2:14) that former members repeated in multiple stories.

This is significant. I know a church which mirrors Crowded House. A young man wished to change jobs for a better position that he had long wanted. He told his *family* and they disagreed with him and told him to turn it down since it might take time away from them!!

This statement alone would cause me to stay away from this church.

More control

Under the gospel centered category on the first page (this is so easy) you find the following.

Speaking the truth in love, we challenge one another to be sacrificial, servant-hearted, risk-taking and flexible because the gospel has priority over our comfort, preferences, security and traditions.

That sounds really, really nice. However, can you see how this might be used to coerce an unsuspecting member to acquiesce to an uncomfortable demand?

Does Crowded House affiliate with other groups? Yep

At the very bottom of the front page one can see the logo of Acts 29 which is known for being authoritarian in its *gospel* presence.

Crosslands is a ministry for training and education started by, of course, Acts 29 so one should be aware of the DNA Involved. For example, Biblical counseling is offered through Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Always look at a statement of faith.

In this, one quickly learns the parameters of doctrine.Definitely reformed, and definitely complementarian

The Crowded House is evangelical, missional, reformed and complementarian.

Ask what they mean by complementarian. What exactly can women do and not do?

Always click the About button.,

By doing this, I discovered something. Not only did they can Timmis but at least one other elder stepped down. I bet it was his relative. Yikes! The two who are left are very young. This should be another red flag.

Click on “internship” and read it carefully. Sounds really good.

The Crowded House internship is a year long programme that offers a unique opportunity in which both your character and skills will be developed. Our aim is to provide a significant experience of gospel ministry that will prepare you for a lifetime serving Jesus among his people in the world.

My good friend, Todd Wilhelm, called me last evening and got me laughing about this. You see, it appears that the interns are supposed to develop character. Its really important. How do they do this?


Yep, sweep the floor and develop character. I went to a church that had a ton of deacons. Their job was to assist in the parking lot and add chairs in the sanctuary as needed.I have to admit that it was funny when men (only men in that church-Reformed baptist) who were so excited to be deacons, found themselves spending the better part of Sunday morning in the parking lot.

There area number of other red flags on that website but I’ll leave that up to TWW sleuths.

Finally, always check for outside sources who are interested  or who have been involved in the situation. This is one incredible blog post.

Here is one well written post: God free us from celebrity pastors

I got a chance to see Steve in the flesh many years ago when he was touring across the UK plugging one of his new books. He spoke really well and was very engaging. I kind of liked him as despite his age (he was there along with Matt Chandler) he was really passionate. I had heard about him only in name but when he was introduced I realised that he had co authored a few books that I actually owned.

He and Tim Chester (Whos is an enabler of the abuse Timmis inflicted) had knocked out a number of books that were getting eagerly eaten up by many Reformed Evangelicals who wanted to be less cold and stodgy and more warm and friendly with their fellow neighbour. Timmis was at the forefront of putting these things into action and putting bible verses behind them. So to vast swathes of middle class and rather nervous reformed Christians his books were just what they were after

…So thousands of us happily bought anything that was promoting a ‘missional’ or ‘gospel intentional’ way of living. Church planting was the buzz word and it was something all the people who ‘actually cared’ were involved in.  These were the spiritual heavy hitters who by their works showed how much they loved God.

Often I will look at one of my old bookcases. It is filled with different books I had bought and read from cover to cover. The first shelf of those is made up mostly of reformed books that were written in the early 2010’s and beyond. I cannot express how much time I wasted reading them.

…I honestly can shed no tears for him (Timmis). I find in these circumstances that the celeb pastor has no end of comforters publicly supporting and endorsing them, however the nameless, small and often poor victims who have not the luxury of a recognisable name have very few comforters.  I am overjoyed that Timmis has been outed and hope he can hurt less and less people and those who he has hurt can find healing and fellowship with our Lord.

That was one awesome post.

Comments

A TWW Tutorial on How to Spot a Controlling Bully: Matt Chandler Fires Acts 29 CEO Steve Timmis — 200 Comments

  1. Sigh…., I much prefer working in my “heathen, secular humanist, world” than the bubble these dud bros function in… no pretense of spirituality, just good old fashion human nature on display!

  2. “Speaking the truth in love, we challenge one another to be sacrificial, servant-hearted, risk-taking and flexible because the gospel has priority over our comfort, preferences, security and traditions.”

    If I’m reading this correctly…

    Sacrificial vs comfort
    Servant-hearted vs preferences
    Risk-taking vs security
    Flexible vs traditions

    But all eight of those nouns and modifiers are perfectly fine things. Nothing about comfort, preferences, security, and traditions is incompatible with the Gospel.

    Maybe they mean that complacency and rigidity are incompatible with the Gospel. But they don’t say that.

    When a church challenges basic ideas such as comfort and security, it challenges the autonomy God gave us all.

  3. In case you hadn’t seen it yet, InterVarsity Press in the UK issued a statement about pulling from sales three books they publish by Steve Timmis. (Note: IVP in North America is a separate entity, and is not a publisher of Mr Timmis’ books.)

    I appreciate their taking responsibility and for their sensitivity to survivors of abuse. Here is the link to their statement, and the first three paragraphs.

    https://ivpbooks.com/blog/a-statement-regarding-steve-timmis.html

    EXCERPT: THE OPENING OF THEIR STATEMENT. (Scripture text added.)

    IVP is prayerfully mindful of those who have suffered from abusive leadership in any context, and believes that the words of Psalm 9:9 are true, beautiful and good. [[“The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble”]]

    We have recently learnt that Steve Timmis, author or co-author of three books we publish, has been accused of spiritual abuse, and has been removed from his position as CEO of Acts 29. Steve Timmis resigned from the eldership at The Crowded House at the weekend.

    As an evangelical publisher with roots in ministry, we take allegations such as these very seriously and are acting accordingly. Having re-read and considered Steve Timmis’ titles in the light of these allegations, we have removed them from sale in our website and are in the process of withdrawing them from sale more widely. In hindsight, we now realize that the style of close church community advocated in these books lacked sufficient safeguards against abusive control. We are sorry for publishing books that may have contributed to unhealthy and even abusive church cultures, and we apologize to people who have suffered as a result.

  4. This Twitter thread started by Holly Hope has a series of tweets, several with screenshots and/or Wayback Machine links, that track Steve Timmis’ books from The Good Book Company and the disappearance of his books and author bio sometime in the last two days (since February 8).

    As of this time (8 PM Pacific on February 10), The Good Book Company has not posted a statement as to reasons for these changes.

    https://twitter.com/Holly4Hope/status/1226969715328901123

  5. “the inherent problems of authoritarian leadership and predatory practices in taking over churches.”

    Keep the tutorials coming. This is excellent work.

  6. I have not read any of Timmis’ books (was starting to transition out of Evangeli-world around the time his titles became a “thing” and I stopped paying attention to new titles), but it sounds like the church model he advocated is one in which lay trust in and obedience to leaders is based on “ascribed” rather than “earned” trust.

    I think it is unwise to implicitly trust anyone simply on the basis of the position they happen to hold in a hierarchy. Trust must be earned. Leaders who know this and who want to be worthy of their followers’ trust will lead much more humbly than those who reckon that they deserve to be trusted and obeyed on account of their status in the organization.

    “Let him who would be first among you be the servant of all.”

  7. There was a mention in the Christianity Today article that Matt Chandler is the only person still in the A29 board who was also on the board six years ago. I am not familiar with how boards usually function; is that a normal amount of turnover?

  8. Wild Honey:
    There was a mention in the Christianity Today article that Matt Chandler is the only person still in the A29 board who was also on the board six years ago. I am not familiar with how boards usually function; is that a normal amount of turnover?

    It’s a winsome amount

  9. During a meeting with Chandler and two board members to discuss the letter, all five were fired and asked to sign non-disclosure agreements as a condition of their severance packages. They were shocked.

    Those poor five. It has been so long since I’ve been shocked by things like this, it sort of surprises me that there are still people who are caught by surprise. Sadly, these people will now have to go through the learning curve of church abuse and recovery. But as for the abusive leaders, I sometimes think their philosophy is “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

  10. I’ve fought for this for ten years. Well, been affected for ten years. When I wrote about it (link in CT article) on my blog they sent an email to my boss in Oz threatening to put out a statement refuting it all. I told them to go ahead as I would publish it as my next blog post entitled “Nothing to See Here Folks”

  11. The enemy of our souls truly wants to steal, kill and destroy! Regarding these Movements like the Shepherding/Discipleship Movement of the 70s and 80s which ruined two beautiful biblical words for many, and left a bad taste in their mouth. The word ‘discipleship’ before the movement took the name meant being a follower, apprentice, and learner of Christ- a beautiful thought. After they took it over it came to mean a believer who was at the beck and call of a leader, who was called their so-called ‘Shepherd’. The beautiful word ‘shepherd’ was also high jacked for the same reason!

    Now the most beautiful of all words ‘Grace’ will leave a bad taste in the mouths of those involved in either ‘Sovereign Grace’ or the so called communities of ‘Grace’ -the Crowded house churches.

  12. Sounds like Shepherding Movement repackaged.

    I have to check with my shepherd first.

  13. TVC & Watermark are completely obsessed with control of their ‘covenant members’. The hook is ‘we are family’, and once u are sucked in, they will require you to give an account of every area of your life. Want to change jobs? Your community group has to approve. Want to buy a house? Your community group has to approve. Want to date this guy or that girl? Your community group has to approve. I am now hearing about this happening in parachurch orgs that are affiliated with these churches. This is crazy folks. Too many parallels to Scientology. Crowded House Church is NO DIFFERENT. All of this comes down from the mothership – Acts 29.

    Oh, and if you want to leave the church, you need permission to do that to.

  14. Anna: TVC & Watermark are completely obsessed with control of their ‘covenant members’. The hook is ‘we are family’, and once u are sucked in, they will require you to give an account of every area of your life.

    New Calvinist wannabes, take careful note! This style of leadership is fairly common in the new reformation. “Lead” pastors and their yes-men band of elders will attempt to control you to the uttermost. DO NOT sign a membership covenant anywhere! As a Christian, the only covenant you need is the one written in the blood of Jesus.

  15. chipmybrothersnameisdale: Sounds like Shepherding Movement repackaged.

    It is! The Shepherding Movement stressed the total depravity of its members (so does New Calvinism). Members were prone to sin; thus, it was necessary for the shepherd (lead pastor) to monitor/control every jot and tittle of your life to keep you on the straight and narrow way. Of course this was intended to make you accountable to ‘them’, rather than God. Acts29 membership covenants and 9Marks discipline are intended to beat you into submission. The Shepherding Movement was a cult … New Calvinism is a cult.

  16. Anna: if you want to leave the church, you need permission to do that to

    It’s better to be shunned and excommunicated by such places than to surrender your soul to them. For those who are reading this and find themselves “under contract” and in bondage to church leaders, get the heck out of there! Let them see your elbows and your rear-end going out the door! When you do, Jesus will come looking for you.

  17. Max: It is! The Shepherding Movement stressed the total depravity of its members (so does New Calvinism). Members were prone to sin; thus, it was necessary for the shepherd (lead pastor) to monitor/control every jot and tittle of your life to keep you on the straight and narrow way.

    I was involved on the fringe of the Shepherding Movement in the Seventies.
    The damage is still there.

  18. Max: For those who are reading this and find themselves “under contract” and in bondage to church leaders, get the heck out of there!

    And risk ETERNAL HELL?

    (ECT is the best ally and weapon abusive church leaders have ever had.)

  19. Max: New Calvinist wannabes, take careful note! This style of leadership is fairly common in the new reformation. “Lead” pastors and their yes-men band of elders will attempt to control you to the uttermost.

    I want to see what happens when Head Apostles and their yes-men Elders have a falling out with other Head Apostles and their yes-men Elders. The Universe Cannot Have Two Centers.

  20. Samuel Conner: Leaders who know this and who want to be worthy of their followers’ trust will lead much more humbly than those who reckon that they deserve to be trusted and obeyed on account of their status in the organization.

    I think even the idea of leadership itself in the church ends up resulting in these kinds of problems. One reason is that there’s always people that want to be in charge of other people, whether they like the powerful feeling of being in charge or they feel like it would result in benefits to themselves. Another reason is that it still puts a distinction between some people and others–leaders and followers. I never get the impression from Jesus’ words or ministry that humans were supposed to be in that capacity. Even the apostles are more just starters than leaders.

    Some people (who usually want to be leaders) are very offended by the idea that everyone should have personal autonomy. They can’t imagine a world where they are only in charge of themselves. Others might have this tendency, but start out with good intentions, and the feeling of power they get from leading corrupts them. The only way to escape that corruption is to stop leading, but that feeling of power becomes an addiction. And maybe like the quote says, power always corrupts to some extent. The moment we believe we have power over another, we are believing that we should play god in their lives.

  21. Andrew Kenny: The enemy of our souls truly wants to steal, kill and destroy! Regarding these Movements like the Shepherding/Discipleship Movement of the 70s and 80s which ruined two beautiful biblical words for many, and left a bad taste in their mouth.

    To this day, I cannot hear the phrase “Praise the LORD!” (especially when all-caps and multiple “O”s) without thinking “LONG LIVE BIG BROTHER!”

  22. I just moved to the Dallas area from Raleigh, NC. While I am now of the covenant theology/reformed doctrine crowd (y’all don’t stone me!), I am in a DFW area reformed group on facebook. They shared this story, and the comments are spectacular. 5 different people responded to the post that they or their family/friends had experienced this same heavy-handed behavior from leaders in their Acts29 churches.

    Of those who speak up in their Acts29 churches, I wonder how many are accused of gossip/slander. It’s funny how leaders default to that.

  23. ishy: Some people (who usually want to be leaders) are very offended by the idea that everyone should have personal autonomy. They can’t imagine a world where they are only in charge of themselves.

    Also, I wonder if this desire to be in control of others nearly always results in a lack of personal control. We’ve seen over and over here, even in the above story, men who thirst for power doing unconscionable things. They end up breaking up their marriages, churches, friend groups, losing their book contracts and speaking engagements. When they inevitably try to get it all back too fast, they haven’t learned the lessons they needed to learn and still don’t have themselves under control.

    So maybe they aren’t really in “control”. They just desire it at the expense of personal control.

  24. Wild Honey,

    It would depend on the by-laws of the organization, for example whether the Board members were appointed by a vote of shareholders in the organization or other stakeholders, or was “self-propagating” (like elders in a church).

    In a board that is self-propagating, this degree of turnover could be interpreted to be evidence of turmoil among and conflict between board members. If it is selected by outside stake- or share-holders, it could suggest that these authorities are not pleased with its performance.

  25. Apparently 5 staff members complained to Chandler that Timmis was a bully. And Matt Chandler, acting as the supreme bully, fired them all.

    They don’t listen to criticism and so they never learn. If you want to make consistently bad decisions, this is the way to go.

  26. ishy,

    I fully agree.

    This is part of the beauty that I see in the quote with which I ended the prior comment. The only people who can be trusted to lead unselfishly are those whose motives are to promote the good of the others.

    Wouldn’t it be something if churches were places where the competition was not for power or control, as it is in “the world,” but to do good to neighbor?

    “if you want to be great in the Kingdom, humble yourself and serve the interests of your neighbours”

    My sense is that “leaders” should emerge endogenously through a life-long process of proving themselves to be the kind of person that Jesus was. They would not push to the top of hierarchies, but rather would be invited by their peers into greater responsibility after long and compelling evidence of good character.

    There wouldn’t be that many young people with “authority” in such groups. They could pursue their ambitions in the business world, rather than bringing that world into the churches.

  27. “A TWW Tutorial on How to Spot a Controlling Bully:”

    If the minister and ministry are affiliated with the New Calvinist movement (Acts29, T4G, TGC, etc.), you can pretty well depend on bullies in residence. Certainly, authoritarian punks disguised as preachers of the gospel can be lurking in any church, but the new reformation has more than its share of bad-boys. Do your homework as Dee suggests and steer clear of them.

  28. Samuel Conner: Wouldn’t it be something if churches were places where the competition was not for power or control, as it is in “the world,” but to do good to neighbor?

    Would I could find a church like that. Even in the non-authoritarian ones, the focus is often on keeping everything the way it is or being an inclusive social club. “We’d LOVE new members, just don’t make me leave my comfort zone!”

  29. Megan,

    I am not anti Reformed. In fact, TWW’s EChurch features the sermons of Wade Burleson who is SBC but he is Reformed. The pastors/churches which I feature on this blog include all types. Unfortunately, the Calvinista crowd has been making waves in the news, etc. for their bullying nature. Matt Chandler who is also Reformed Baptist is one of those who I believe is a bully.

  30. Max,

    YOu’ve got it. Do your homework! It will only take about 30 minutes to get the picture of what you are getting into.

  31. Headless Unicorn Guy: I was involved on the fringe of the Shepherding Movement in the Seventies.
    The damage is still there.

    When the New Calvinism bubble breaks (it will), a great multitude of followers will feel the same pain HUG.

  32. Lea,

    Chandler depends on this membership covenant to rule the peons who believe he is *in authority.* He uses employment contracts to rule over employees who disagree with him. Sometimes I feel like a broken record. When you see these things it should warn you to never sign those membership contracts No-they are not covenants.That’s the lingo they use to make it sound *biblical.*

  33. ishy: Would I could find a church like that

    Agreed. On the other hand, the kind of group you describe is at least not toxic.

    A possible “theory of change” could be to affiliate with such a group and model servant leadership to the group, in the hope that others would be inspired to help — a “bottom up” rather than “top down” theory of change.

    I can’t promise this will work; my own experience was that after a while, I was invited (by the existing leaders) to become a member and an officer in order to be “plugged in” to the existing way of doing things. They wanted to “bolt on” functionality to repair their dysfunctional group, without actually transforming the group.

    I think that hoping for change in the churches is a good way to become a man or woman “of sorrows”.

  34. Anna,

    One of the examples that I gave came from Watermark Church. I am shocked about how many people will give up their freedom of conscience and agree to be monitored. Many of these folks are quite young and easily misled.

  35. chipmybrothersnameisdale,

    Absolutely. MattChandler aspart of the organizations which supported CJ Mahaney /Sovereign Grace which came out of the shepherding movement. These guys learned from his books and his speeches at conferences. You are looking at remnants of his DNA.

  36. dee: Do your homework!

    Even without the homework, there are the obvious red flags when one visits such churches: a leader who calls himself “lead pastor”, a preponderance of ESV Bibles, women who express bondage on their countenance, name-dropping of New Calvinist icons in sermons (e.g., Piper).

  37. Samuel Conner: A possible “theory of change” could be to affiliate with such a group and model servant leadership to the group, in the hope that others would be inspired to help — a “bottom up” rather than “top down” theory of change.

    I have heard of such groups, I have just never really seen one locally. But I do live in the deep South where 90% of churches are SBC. I visited one church whose denomination is known elsewhere for modelling servantship, and it literally had 8 people in the service. Meanwhile, the SBC church down the street waving their covenant membership has over a thousand.

  38. Stephen McAlpine: I’ve fought for this for ten years. Well, been affected for ten years. When I wrote about it (link in CT article) on my blog they sent an email to my boss in Oz threatening to put out a statement refuting it all. I told them to go ahead as I would publish it as my next blog post entitled “Nothing to See Here Folks”

    Stephen
    If you would ever like to tell of your experience here, let me know. dee@thewartburgwatch.com. I’m so sorry for what happened to you. I’ve been fighting this stuff for almost 11 years. When I went forward at a former church to report that I believed they knew about the pedophile (a seminary student who molested well over 13 teen boys in my church), guess who became the problem. Yep!

    They used the typical techniques. They called me bitter when my son was not one lf the molested teens. I was standing up for them. I learned a whole bunch as they piled on the abuse. That is why I started this blog. I wanted to see if there were others out there who had experienced similar situations. The numbers who have are astonishing. So glad you were able to hang in there.

  39. Anna: Want to change jobs? Your community group has to approve. Want to buy a house? Your community group has to approve. Want to date this guy or that girl? Your community group has to approve.

    I cannot even FATHOM letting people make these decisions for me. I have a friend deep in a community group at a dallas mega and I wonder if they’re weird and controlling like this.

    My little church group all we do is drink wine and have bible study.

  40. SiteSeer: Those poor fiv

    This is why I believe that Matt Chandler is a bully and has been a bully for years. I feel sorry for anyone who has to tell him things that will make him mad. I believe he is not to be confronted and he will get you if you do.

    The only way to survive in his church is to keep your mouth shut and not get too involved.

  41. We were reading Curious George in my household yesterday, so I went and looked up the current board members of A29. While I’m not entirely certain, I’m 90% sure that one of the gentlemen led a 1-day mini-conference on church planting that I attended in probably late 2015, while a member of a (what turned out to be unhealthy) A29 church.

    I remember two things from the speaker:

    1) The speaker advised going solo when planting a church, as in not planting it with a partner. His reasoning was that, unless you practically grew up with the guy you were planting with, you might not know them all that well and may run into conflict with them down the road. My husband (who didn’t attend, just heard from me what was said) observed that this also removes a level of accountability.

    2) The speaker advised against inviting former pastors or elders from other churches who might currently be attending the church to serve as elders. His reasoning was that they would have their own ways of doing things and own ideas, and this might also cause conflict down the road. This seemed strange to me, to deliberately exclude the directly applicable experience of others.

    Not all conflict should be avoided. Iron cannot sharpen iron without there being some clashing of steel.

  42. Wild Honey: Matt Chandler is the only person still in the A29 board who was also on the board six years ago. I am not familiar with how boards usually function; is that a normal amount of turnover?

    This whole thing was set up by Mark Driscoll. If Driscoll hadn’t imploded, he would still be the head of the show. It is perfectly legal to do such things but it is bad policy since such a position appears to attract controlling bullies.

  43. Samuel Conner: A possible “theory of change” could be to affiliate with such a group and model servant leadership to the group, in the hope that others would be inspired to help — a “bottom up” rather than “top down” theory of change.

    I can’t promise this will work; my own experience was that after a while, I was invited (by the existing leaders) to become a member and an officer in order to be “plugged in” to the existing way of doing things. They wanted to “bolt on” functionality to repair their dysfunctional group, without actually transforming the group.

    We tried doing this is a small group and got asked to lead one of our own. When we finally agreed, I got asked if I could “submit to leadership and training.” Well, there went that.

  44. dee: The only way to survive in his church is to keep your mouth shut and not get too involved.

    Or brown your nose and out-Loyalty everyone else.

  45. Wild Honey,

    Hierarchies will gladly incorporate servant-hearted people into their agendas, provided that the incorporation does not threaten the existing power structures.

    What you describe sounds like your “bottom up” change agenda was recognized and “nipped in the bud.”

    The sad thing is that there really is hierarchy in “the Church as described in the NT” — a hierarchy of self-giving. The Son gives Himself for the life of His people. Deacons and elders are to give themselves for their flocks. Husbands and fathers are to give themselves for their wives and children.

    “Let this mind be in you, which also was in Christ Jesus, who … emptied Himself and became nothing, taking the form of a servant”

  46. SamuelConner: My sense is that “leaders” should emerge endogenously through a life-long process of proving themselves to be the kind of person that Jesus was.

    I think this gets into the different types of leadership. These guys are very ‘position’ oriented and discount the leadership of men and women who are emerging naturally while not looking for titles.

  47. SamuelConner: I think that hoping for change in the churches is a good way to become a man or woman “of sorrows”.

    Change is hard. If you come in wanting to change something, you will probably need a really good reason and a lot of support.

  48. WildHoney: you might not know them all that well and may run into conflict with them down the road…
    Not all conflict should be avoided.

    Right? Is the actual problem that NONE of these people have a clue how to deal healthily with conflict??

  49. WildHoney,

    This is one of the dumb comp arguments that always blows me away – ‘if two people disagree how ever will we reach a decision if the man can’t just get his own way’??

    Have you ever considered having a conversation?? A compromise?? It’s very, very strange.

  50. “… at least one other elder stepped down … The two who are left are very young.” (Dee)

    Think about it: “young elders.” Should an “elder” be young?! New Calvinist church plants in my area are populated by 20-something lead pastors and their elder teams of same-age. How wise is that? The lead pastors, of course, can control such youngsters … problem is, most don’t have any spiritual sense themselves!

    Reminds me of another young whippersnapper: “King Rehoboam consulted the elders who had served his father Solomon … But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him …” (1 Kings 12). Rehoboam rejected the advice of Solomon’s elders?! The wisest man who ever lived had counselors … must have been a smart bunch! The story goes on to chronicle the fall of Rehoboam and Israel … listening to young elders just didn’t work out well for him or the nation and it ain’t for the American church, either.

  51. SamuelConner: Hierarchies will gladly incorporate servant-hearted people into their agendas

    I think incorporating people who have vision and drive into leadership positions makes a ton of sense in a healthy organization. I think problems can come from people wanting control, but I don’t think that’s a bad model in theory. Deacons and Elders generally come from the church body.

    But like Wild Honey said, this emphasis on submission is a big question.

  52. Just after Watermark got some bad press last October for this sort of thing, 9Mark Dever made a quick trip to Texas then splashed this on his twitter and instagram:

    https://twitter.com/MarkDever/status/1184303345202282496
    “Privilege this morning to speak with the staff at Watermark, Dallas.
    Thankful for the privilege!”
    Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019

    https://www.instagram.com/p/B3pnxHUHbnM/
    markdever: “Wonderful time with Caleb , Todd, Marc & friends at Watermark”
    [selfie pic with Watermark Senior Pastor/Elder Todd Wagner]

  53. Lea: If you come in wanting to change something, you will probably need a really good reason and a lot of support.

    In my case, I was fleeing from what appeared to me to be an emerging authoritarian agenda in my prior church “home” and was simply seeking refuge; had no aspirations of making any contribution beyond what was expected of the other pew-sitters. But the group I fled to was as troubled, in its own way, as the group I had fled from and I eventually tried to help promote “one another” body-life care agendas that might have made the place more appealing to outsiders; in the end unsuccessfully. The group continued to dwindle and is now gone. Their way of “being church” was well-adapted to the years in which they thrived, in the middle of the 20th century, but was not well-adapted to present conditions.

  54. WOW. Being berated because you didn’t discuss travel plans with the church or group to see if they approved of it. Hogwash. I make travel plans for me and hubby. Might get input from kids, or maybe a relative. But what if you travel for your job a lot. Are you supposed to ask them if it’s ok to go. You just might lose your job over that.

  55. Jerome: Matt Chandler replied in the next post how grateful he was, for 9Mark Dever’s visit to Watermark

    New Calvinism is a mutual admiration society. They flatter each other to the sickening point. If they get crossed by one of the brethren, however, the fangs come out. Within that “gospel-centered” group are a lot of mean-spirited folks.

  56. dee,

    My niece and her husband got mixed up in a “minsitry” that operated “house churches.” They moved to an area where the ministry (run by one couple, and mostly by the husband) wanted to start a church. The house had to be approved by the head guy, although my niece preferred another one.She was told to submit to her husband and the ministry, and they bought the ministry approved house. It just got worse from there. The marriage/family have fallen apart, but there is still communication and possible opportunities for “minsitry.” My niece and her husband were not raised in stable families, and these are the kind of young people who just flock to “ministries” that might be able to help them have a happy life.

  57. Linn: They moved to an area where the ministry (run by one couple, and mostly by the husband) wanted to start a church. The house had to be approved by the head guy, although my niece preferred another one.

    Is it just me, or is it so weird that even house churches end up with these weirdly controlling people? That’s exactly what Timmis was accused of, and now James Macdonald wants to start a house church movement, and you he will be up to his old tricks with that.

  58. dee,

    Understood. Like your blog reported on, I attended First Baptist Church Rocky Mount when the whole Dennis Darville debacle was going on. I didn’t agree with his tactics – he was and probably still is a shady man.

  59. ishy: Is it just me, or is it so weird that even house churches end up with these weirdly controlling people? … James MacDonald wants to start a house church movement … he will be up to his old tricks with that

    Should we think otherwise about JMac?! He doesn’t exactly have a track history of honesty and integrity. Is he now new & improved after his brief season of restoration? Did I miss his display of sackcloth and ashes confession/repentance from his last gig? “But man, the dude can sure preach” shout his loyal followers!

    Yep, even “weirdly controlling people” show up at house churches … we tried a few several years ago and found that the weirdos had already set up camp.

  60. ishy: Is it just me, or is it so weird that even house churches end up with these weirdly controlling people?

    I think it’s probably even more likely that house churches end up with people who can’t fit into a regular church, want to be in control/charge, etc. It’s easier to get to the top of a group of 50 than 5000.

  61. Lea,

    “body life” is simply “how the group relates to itself”

    This group was not particularly warm internally, and was quite frosty to outsiders.

    For a number of years I prepared (with the help of one other who saw the need) a weakly lunch that was provided to all comers after the Sunday AM service, in the hope that dining together might help the people to like each other better (and especially to help the elders listen to the laity). It does seem to have helped at little, especially in the immediate aftermath of contentious failed attempt at a pastoral hire that nearly split the group, but not enough to reverse the long term decline trend.

  62. Lea: I think it’s probably even more likely that house churches end up with people who can’t fit into a regular church, want to be in control/charge, etc. It’s easier to get to the top of a group of 50 than 5000.

    Yeah, that’s true. It’s just frustrating that no matter where we go, some tyrant seems to always show up.

  63. http://www.bpnews.net/54304/imb-names-somer-nowak-as-prevention-and-response-administrator

    “RICHMOND, Va. (BP) — The International Mission Board (IMB) has selected Somer Nowak to fill the newly created position of prevention and response administrator for the 175-year-old entity. In this role, Nowak will oversee and manage prevention and response efforts for child abuse (physical and sexual), sexual harassment (including sexual assault) and domestic violence.”

    “Nowak, who recently served as a missionary in East Asia, previously worked as a counselor with the Cherokee County Board of Education in Centre, Ala. In this role, she worked alongside county officials to identify victims of child abuse and take appropriate steps in reporting. She also educated school staff and parents on child abuse and prevention, including identifying the signs of child abuse and how to report it.”

    “Nowak also worked as a forensic interviewer, forensic counselor and educational consultant for Children’s Advocacy of Cherokee County. In this role she assisted local schools in reporting child abuse cases and counseling victims of abuse and performed forensic interviews for local law enforcement in suspected child abuse cases.”

    “Nowak holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology and psychology, a master’s degree in community agency counseling, and an educational specialist degree in school counseling from Jacksonville State University.”

  64. ishy,

    House churches are a perfect way to keep people under control. Small groups, you know where everyone live, and since you are family, you can worship in each other’s domiciles. It’s all “biblical” and you can be intimante-and controlling!

  65. Linn: House churches are a perfect way to keep people under control. Small groups, you know where everyone live, and since you are family, you can worship in each other’s domiciles. It’s all “biblical” and you can be intimante-and controlling!

    I’v only visited one, and they were just a bit cuckoo. Though I think I’ve mentioned before, one of my neighbors has one, and only married couples with grown and gone children are allowed. No single people. No children. No married couples without children. I also think he’s a bit cuckoo. So I kinda consider house churches a place for the crazies, too.

  66. Lea: I think it’s probably even more likely that house churches end up with people who can’t fit into a regular church, want to be in control/charge, etc.

    House churches exist because folks couldn’t fit into regular church for a variety of reasons. Some have noble intentions to do church right a different way … some, as you note, have a more insidious agenda to manipulate and dominate. Believers need to pray for discernment before getting involved with house churches … or traditional churches, for that matter … sorting out the genuine from the counterfeit appears to be a more difficult task than it used to be.

  67. W/R to OP, I see the principle of “non-disclosure agreements” all over the Bible. What is wrong with all of you ( I am thinking of competing with Roger Bombast!)

  68. ishy,

    When I first became a Christian, my friend invited me to her church, which happened to meet in a large house in a west coast city. If you couldn’t rent a storefront, you put the new church in a house. However, the intention was to grow and buy a property, which the church did a few years later. They now meet in a large business property they were able to refurbish. So, not all house churches are suspect.

  69. Linn: not all house churches are suspect

    Agreed. I have observed both genuine expressions of Christianity and counterfeit faith in the house church movement in my area. As you note, they don’t always stay “house” churches, but are church plants which eventually mature to regular churches.

  70. Anna: Too many parallels to Scientology.

    In defense of Scientology (I can’t believe I’m saying this), the org only cares if your activities impede your ability to hand over wads of cash or if you’re involved with a “suppressive person.” Otherwise, they don’t care.

  71. Lea: Right? Is the actual problem that NONE of these people have a clue how to deal healthily with conflict??

    Well, that does speak to a certain level of immaturity. And Max frequently points out the age of the “elders” discussed here (though age and maturity level don’t always go hand-in-hand 🙂 )

  72. Lea:
    WildHoney,

    This is one of the dumb comp arguments that always blows me away – ‘if two people disagree how ever will we reach a decision if the man can’t just get his own way’??

    Have you ever considered having a conversation?? A compromise?? It’s very, very strange.

    Seriously. The same way two co-workers handle a disagreement about how to move forward on a project. Or two siblings on how to best help a parent dealing with health problems. Or friends trying to decide where to eat lunch together.

    I had another weird interaction at that church when volunteering as their admin assistant. I wanted to try something a little different with morning announcements, but the person I was training as my replacement and the deacon who happened to be involved in announcements that week didn’t think it was a good idea. I tried to explain what I was hoping to get out of making a change, but said it was ok if we just stuck to the same old way of doing things, I wouldn’t take it personally. Instead of trying to engage me in conversation, one of the other two suggested we talk to the senior pastor to get his opinion. Mentally, I was like, “Can’t we all just handle this as adults and settle it amongst ourselves? Why does the senior pastor even need to get involved in something like this? I’ve already said it’s ok if we don’t implement my suggestion, why is there a need to appeal to a higher authority?”

  73. Wild Honey: age of the “elders” discussed here (though age and maturity level don’t always go hand-in-hand )

    Yep, age doesn’t guarantee wisdom nor spiritual maturity, but it helps. I was young and now am old; I’ve learned a LOT in my Christian journey but haven’t ‘arrived’ yet. I just wish I had some energy from my youth to go with my superior intellect 🙂

  74. Again, with respect to the original post…. since this guy has been “excommunicated” and at least in UK his books have been “pulled”, does this mean that all of his “teachings” in these “books” is wrong?? Given that all these dude bros push books, if they “fall from grace”, does everything in their books go in the trash also?
    What about good old potty mouth Driscoll, and CJ? Inquiring minds want to know?!
    And, what if good old Pope Al? Given that the “stained” glass has been removed, does the books/teachings of that guy (forgot his name) also go in the trash??

  75. Jeffrey Chalmers: since this guy has been “excommunicated” and at least in UK his books have been “pulled”, does this mean that all of his “teachings” in these “books” is wrong?? Given that all these dude bros push books, if they “fall from grace”, does everything in their books go in the trash also?

    This is an important question that comes up serious discussion periodically — especially drawing in those who are students of theology, seminary professors, and abuse survivors and advocates.

    Solutions range from an all encompassing ban forever on books by “fallen” authors, to reading with caution to see how their particular “besetting sins” affected their writings, and views in between.

    Here are some things I’ve gathered over the years on this issue.

    1. PUBLISHER OPTIONS. From a case study of Eerdmans Publishing dealing with plagiarism by an author.

    https://futuristguysfieldguides.wordpress.com/c1-institutional-examples-of-remediation/4-05-dealing-with-plagiarism/

    EXCERPT: During a Facebook conversation about these kinds of issues, my friend, Jonathan McCormick, who works as a seminary lead librarian, chimed in. He suggested that publishers have three options for dealing with books of authors who end up in disrepute due to character issues and/or misconduct:

    * Openly defend their author as if nothing is wrong.

    * Quietly take the author’s book(s) out of print, perhaps selling out the last of the stock.

    * Openly recall the book(s) and destroy the copies.

    Jonathan mentioned that the third option rarely happens, and typically happens when there are ethical violations (such as plagiarism). He gave as an example of “the nuclear option” what happened in August 2016 with Eerdmans Publishing Co. They had to deal with three Bible commentaries by Peter T. O’Brien that allegedly misused secondary source material.

  76. brad/futuristguy,

    CONTINUED.

    2. PUBLISHER STATEMENT RE: JOHN HOWARD YODER. More directly relevant to Steve Timmis and others whose books get pulled from publication and sales is how the Mennonites (and especially their publishing arm, Herald Press) addressed sexual abuse/harassment and systemic enablement by their celebrity professor, John Howard Yoder, who had also been president of a Christian Ethics society.

    Here is that case study link:

    https://futuristguysfieldguides.wordpress.com/c1-institutional-examples-of-remediation/4-06-dealing-with-sexual-abuse-and-harassment/

  77. Jeffrey Chalmers: Given that all these dude bros push books, if they “fall from grace”, does everything in their books go in the trash also?

    doubleplusungood ref doubleplusunbooks by doubleplusunpersons.

  78. brad/futuristguy,

    CONTINUED, #2.

    I have more extensive notes that I may eventually incorporate into that case study, including link to the statement posted by Herald Press on what they decided to do about John Howard Yoder books.

    I can’t find the verification on this at the moment, but I recall reading that Herald Press said they intended to print some kind of notice like the following in every edition of every Yoder book from that point forward.

    https://heraldpress.com/yoder/

    Herald Press and John Howard Yoder

    John Howard Yoder (1927–97) was perhaps the most well-known Mennonite theologian in the twentieth century. While his work on Christian ethics helped define Anabaptism to an audience far outside the Mennonite Church, he is also remembered for his long-term sexual harassment and abuse of women.

    Yoder taught ethics and theology at Notre Dame University and Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary. He received his doctorate from the University of Basel, Switzerland, and was a member of Prairie Street Mennonite Church in Elkhart, Indiana. Widely recognized around the world as a theological educator, ethicist, and interpreter of biblical pacifism, he is best known for his influential book The Politics of Jesus. Yoder is credited with defining Anabaptism to a wide audience.

    From 1992 to 1996, John Howard Yoder submitted to an extensive investigation regarding his sexual harassment of women. Such abuse of women led to a church-sponsored disciplinary process. At the conclusion of the process, Yoder’s writings were recommended as an ongoing resource for the church. In 2013, with many calling for a fuller acknowledgment of Yoder’s abuse and criticizing the church’s care for his victims as inadequate, Mennonite Church USA authorized a discernment group [LINK IN ORIGINAL] to coordinate this work.

    We at Herald Press, the publisher for Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada, believe that Yoder and those who write about his work deserve to be heard; we also believe readers should know that Yoder engaged in abusive behavior. Herald Press continues to publish the work of Yoder and those reflecting on his legacy. We hope that those who study Yoder’s writings will not dismiss the complexity of these issues and will instead wrestle with, evaluate, and learn from Yoder’s work in the full context of his personal, scholarly, and churchly legacy.

    For an update on the denomination’s responses, click here [LINK IN ORIGINAL].

  79. Headless Unicorn Guy: I want to see what happens when Head Apostles and their yes-men Elders have a falling out with other Head Apostles and their yes-men Elders. The Universe Cannot Have Two Centers.

    Headless Unicorn Guy: I want to see what happens when Head Apostles and their yes-men Elders have a falling out with other Head Apostles and their yes-men Elders. The Universe Cannot Have Two Centers.

    Headless Unicorn Guy,

    Headless Unicorn Guy: I want to see what happens when Head Apostles and their yes-men Elders have a falling out with other Head Apostles and their yes-men Elders. The Universe Cannot Have Two Centers.

    You want to see what happens? Seems like the subject of this post is a good example something happening between two Head Apostles.
    Chandler firing Timmis.

  80. brad/futuristguy,

    Well, Heard Press seems to have some ethics….. unlike the publishers of the dude bros…. as an academic, I would be “gone” if I pulled the stuff potty mouth Driscoll pulled..

  81. Jeffrey Chalmers,

    I keep thinking about how Mark Driscoll’s publishers have been part of the mega-sprawl News Corp ala Rupert Murdoch et al.

    Meanwhile, as another case study, David C Cook eventually pulled all books written by Tullian Tchividjian, other than a biography of his grandfather for which he wrote the foreword. However, they did not to my knowledge issue any kind of statement about when or why — but surely this had to be in response to communications from survivors plus advocate bloggers. The evidence seemed clear that some of these best-seller books achieved that status at the same time he was involved in clergy sexual misconduct

    https://spiritualsoundingboard.com/2017/02/20/4-an-appeal-to-publisher-david-c-cook-and-others-promoting-tullian-tchividjian/

  82. Lea: I think it’s probably even more likely that house churches end up with people who can’t fit into a regular church, want to be in control/charge, etc. It’s easier to get to the top of a group of 50 than 5000.

    Which is why, with the corruption of the institutional church, I have mostly given up on ever finding a healthy “church.” I will spend that energy in building life-bringing relationships instead. It seems far more worthwhile.

  83. Lea: Right? Is the actual problem that NONE of these people have a clue how to deal healthily with conflict??

    Wish that was the case. IMO it’s simply about control. These guys want 100% freedom to control everything. The pastor who took over our independent Baptist Church and made it SBC Reformed left after being there less than 10 years. He went with NAMB to start a brand new church in a large metro area. His sudden exit after insisting he’d be there for his ministry career seemed to be largely about control- change an existing church there will always be people who don’t agree with the changes but stay anyway cause it’s their church. Start a new church you’re in control from day 1.

  84. ishy: now James Macdonald wants to start a house church movement, and you he will be up to his old tricks with that.

    Am I the only one who is beginning to suspect that wolves like Hybels and MacDonald are deliberately poisoning the wells, so that christians have no confidence in anything ‘churchy’? As folks leave the corrupt institutional church, the one thing left to try is home church. And now MacDonald is going to make sure no one trusts those. Hmmm . . .

  85. ishy: Is it just me, or is it so weird that even house churches end up with these weirdly controlling people?

    Yes, it’s beyond weird. I am not surprised though because healthy house churches are multiplying all over the world with millions of new Jesus followers involved. Stands to reason men like James MacDonald would see that as an opportunity for extending their control and greed. Propelled by the enemy of souls who is livid so many people are finding freedom and life in Jesus.

  86. drstevej:
    1 BAM

    Everytime I see these words and wonder why someone needs to be the first poster, all I can think of is “Slam, Bam, Thank you, Ma’am”. It goes against the seriousness of the posts about sexual abuse. I want to vomit after reading many posts, but then I feel further demeaned by the BAM comment.

  87. brad/futuristguy,

    “IVP is prayerfully mindful of those who have suffered from abusive leadership…

    We have recently learnt that Steve Timmis, author or co-author of three books we publish, has been accused of spiritual abuse, and has been removed from his position as CEO of Acts 29….

    As an evangelical publisher with roots in ministry, we take allegations such as these very seriously and are acting accordingly.

    Having re-read and considered Steve Timmis’ titles in the light of these allegations, we have removed them from sale in our website and…”
    +++++++++++++++++++++++

    i sort of appreciate their response as a whole.

    hard to see it as anything but a PR move, though.

    Intervarsity Press, why weren’t you able to come to these conclusions on your own? were the books selling too well, is that it? would it have damaged profitable relationships?

    seems to me PR and what sells go hand-hand with christian publishing houses.

    i think of Lifeway. they won’t carry Jen Hatmaker’s things because she crosses an SBC line. it would be very bad for business if they did.

    They’ll sell Beth Moore’s things, however, who also crosses an SBC line. it would be very bad for business if they didn’t.

    where ministry is monetized, where faith has dollar signs, where christianity is a business, i think integrity, honesty, and what is right are all doomed to be compromised.

    why can’t IVP and other christian publishers, and christian leaders in general have the awareness and the initiative to inform themselves on harmful & corrupt practices and people in christian culture? and refuse to endorse, support or sell despite loss of revenue and peer standing, simply because it’s right?

    why are they so helpless that they only respond after others have done the hard work of exposing wrong (the hard-working nobodies who do it at their own expense because their conscience demands it)?

    why are they so helpless that they only respond when the tide turns threatening their reputation, profits, and power?
    .
    .
    i see the answer as a lack of conviction, so courage doesn’t occur to them.

    but speaking of power, these hardworking nobodies are the ones who make the tides turn.

    talk about having convictions, and the courage of their convictions!

  88. ishy,

    “I think even the idea of leadership itself in the church ends up resulting in these kinds of problems. ”
    +++++++++++++++

    leadership…leading…lead…

    leaders leading in leadership as they lead

    when did christian culture become so obsessed with these things?

    i grew up in christianworld, and i don’t recall ever hearing these words. (not that they weren’t in the vocabulary — people just went about their lives being kind and generous and didn’t take themselves so seriously.

    a couple might do the dishes together to be mutually helpful. nowadays it’s “see how i’m leading her by helping with the dishes”=him, and “see how i’m submitting to him by helping with the dishes”-her.

    ridiculous.
    .
    .
    that whole “servant leadership” thing is the theory. focusing on oneself by turning it into a vehicle for attention and self-validation is the practice.

    facilitating is so much more fun. creating opportunities for others to have ideas and act on them while you stay in the background & take out the trash at the end.

  89. Meredithwiggle,

    “I will spend that energy in building life-bringing relationships instead. It seems far more worthwhile.”
    +++++++++++++++

    that’s totally awesome.

    how positive, life-giving, & happiness-building. how productive. and no waste! (of time, money, energy, resources…)

  90. Serving Kids in Japan,

    Excellent article, and disgusting situation. And I am suppose to respect these clowns? The level of corruption within these organizations, such as Acts 29, given they are suppose to be “Christian”, is just plain breath taking. As I keep saying, the standards in well run “secular humanist” organization are much higher than these corrupt outfits.

  91. JeffreyChalmers: since this guy has been “excommunicated” and at least in UK his books have been “pulled”, does this mean that all of his “teachings” in these “books” is wrong??

    I think for most of these people the books are not really good enough to be bothered trying to decide, at least for me. Just chuck them out.

    I think the issue of historical theologians who had obviously problematic viewpoints on a variety of issues that may have influenced the way they interpret the bible are more pressing and should be looked at critically. Maybe a good forward helps.

  92. Serving Kids in Japan: Here’s a fine article, from someone well acquainted with the fallout from Acts 29 ministries.

    https://chuckdegroat.net/2020/02/09/narcissism-is-not-a-leadership-style/

    Dr. Degroat accurately describes an “epidemic of narcissism” within the Acts29 network (and the overall New Calvinist movement, IMO). This is the legacy of Mark Driscoll. Chandler and many “pastors” in Acts29 inherited Driscoll’s DNA, continuing to carry this bad-boy genetic code into the 21st century American church. As Dr. Degroat states “bullying, controlling, and scaring are not characteristics of any “leadership style” I find worthy of “Christian” leadership.” It’s clear that Christ is not leading this bunch.

  93. TS00: Am I the only one who is beginning to suspect that wolves like Hybels and MacDonald are deliberately poisoning the wells, so that christians have no confidence in anything ‘churchy’?

    My sense is that the churches of our time are a lot like the church at Corinth, that was being exploited by one after another “super-apostle”.

    At present, I think that one can “explain the phenomena” that we see in the churches with “human” explanations — a) the high (~4%) prevalence of sociopathy in the general population, b) the tendency of the upper reaches of hierarchies to be overpopulated with sociopaths compared with the general population, and c) the “iron law of institutions” (that may be related to the prior two), that institutional office-holders usually are more interested in increasing their power within the institution than promoting the health of the institution.

    Damaging the institutional church is certainly not a wise long-term policy for the well-being of the “super-apostle” class, but if the damage takes place on timescales long compared with individual “super-apostle” careers, the individual harm-doers may not notice that they are poisoning the well from which they so bountifully drink. We do see a significant degree of cooperation among current day “super-apostles” (what Dee calls “BFFs”) but the cooperation appears to be for mutual self-promotion more than for the long-term well being of the institution that is the source of their prosperity.

    It is not hard to find such short-termism in other areas of human endeavor within US. It was not like this decades ago, when institutional office holders seemed to have more of a sense of “duty of care” toward the institutions they managed or served.

    Is there something dark going on “behind the scenes”? I have no way of knowing, of course, but I’ll add that even if there is, one can find adequate evidence in Scripture (early chapters of Job, or compare the Kings and Chronicles accounts of “why David decided to do a census of Israel”) that whatever “behind the scenes” machinations may be happening on the part of “disobedient powers”, these are occurring within the larger context of God’s rule and of Christ’s victory over the powers through the Cross.

    My own sense is that God is sending His people back into exile, as has happened in the past, and the bad actors at the top of the current hierarchies are unwittingly functioning as God’s agents of wrath.

  94. Jeffrey Chalmers: Given that all these dude bros push books, if they “fall from grace”, does everything in their books go in the trash also?

    When it’s all said and done, church history will trash most of what has been birthed in the New Calvinist movement (IMHO). It’s a stretch to call much of what we see and hear in the new reformation as Christian.

  95. Samuel Conner: Is there something dark going on “behind the scenes”?

    Well, the scene that is emerging certainly looks like some of this bunch are masquerading as angels of light – which is pretty dark.

  96. Meredithwiggle: I have mostly given up on ever finding a healthy “church.” I will spend that energy in building life-bringing relationships instead.

    It’s hard to find health when there is death in the camp. The institutional church needs revival, but it needs prayer and repentance first if it is ever going to get back on its feet.

  97. Max,

    I’m not saying “nothing to see here; move along.” But it is worth trying to understand “where we are in the story?”

    Perhaps the situation of the churches in the present time is similar to that of OT Judah/Benjamin after the last good king, Josiah. Bad leaders lead the people of God into bad places. We certainly seem to be in a bad place at the present time.

    And even if we are in a place analogous to that of Judah under its last kings, at the brink of exile, there is still the question of “what to do?” We don’t have to put up with bad leaders. They depend on us much more than we depend on them.

    They have no power that we do not voluntarily give them.

  98. Max: The institutional church needs revival,

    I have come to believe the institutional model is fundamentally flawed and needs to be abandoned by anyone who wants deep and meaningful Christian fellowship. Small, organic gatherings are where healthy relationships are found, but time and time again the inherent corruption of the institutional model rots out the leadership and parishioners alike. The institutional model is an unnecessary exoskeleton we use to try to cage and contain an organic and dynamic living body. Covenants, contracts, boards, buildings, committees, academies, handbooks, etc…. none of this are required of organic relationships, but only from organizations. No intimate human relationships require such things.

    Alistair Begg famously says to his congregation, “you need to run a church like a business.”

    …and this is why the institutional model is a failure.

    The Church is not a business or an organization. It is an organism. The BODY. Don’t fence it in, chain it down, and expect it to thrive.

  99. Clevin,

    Fully agreed. And I think we need to carefully embed the “body” metaphor (which we get from Paul) within the rest of Paul’s “practical ecclesiology” (his “one-another” vision of how “the body” cares for itself).

    Unfortunately, in our day the “body” metaphor has been adapted to serve the interests of the “super-apostles”, who reckon that they are the “head” of the body, as Christ’s visible representatives on earth. They interpret the “body” metaphor in what might be called a “neurological” mode, in that they are the central nervous system of the body that controls the motions of all the visible parts.

    I think they get Paul’s vision of “hierarchy” completely wrong; it looks to me like Paul’s vision was of a hierarchy not of control but of self-giving, in which each “level” in the hierarchy gives itself for the good of the rest. Christ for the life of the people, elders and deacons as servants of the group, husbands as servants of their families.

    I don’t think Paul would recognize many of the present day assemblies as being “of Christ.” They are “of” their respective “super-apostles”.

  100. elastigirl: a couple might do the dishes together to be mutually helpful. nowadays it’s “see how i’m leading her by helping with the dishes”=him, and “see how i’m submitting to him by helping with the dishes”-her.

    ridiculous.

    I agree that stuff is silly.

    Although on a tangent, I saw a really interesting thread on twitter about dudes who talk about wanting to protect their families through weapons…and how things like laundry and teaching handwashing and feeding them good for them food are what actually protects them – it’s just not as dramatic to talk about.

  101. Clevin: I have come to believe the institutional model is fundamentally flawed and needs to be abandoned by anyone who wants deep and meaningful Christian fellowship.

    Jesus came to redeem and work through individuals, not institutions. The institution we call “church” is OK if it is reaching lost folks for Christ, teaching and equipping them to do the work of the ministry, and then mobilizing them to fulfill the Great Commission together. Anything less than that is doing church without God. I suppose in every “church” you can find the “Church” but they appear to be constrained by the structure of the institution. Much of what I observed in 70 years of church membership fell far short of God’s plan for His People, IMO. I have actually experienced “Church” more outside of “church” in my long life … you have to dig your own spiritual well and link with believers of like-mind (which may or may not be in your local church).

  102. Clevin: Small, organic gatherings are where healthy relationships are found, but time and time again the inherent corruption of the institutional model rots out the leadership and parishioners alike.

    I think you can find small organic gatherings within the larger church body though? It doesn’t have to be corrupt just because it’s an institution.

    And not for nothing, but a lot of people are sleeping on good churches because they disagree with some aspect of their doctrine, which is fine, but maybe you’re missing some good places with good healthy relationships by doing so. And then claiming that it’s aLL corrupt. just my two cents.

  103. Samuel Conner: We don’t have to put up with bad leaders. They depend on us much more than we depend on them.

    They have no power that we do not voluntarily give them.

    Amen! These bad actors would have no stage if it weren’t for a gullible audience willing to buy a ticket to their performance. Bad leaders are kept in place by uninformed, misinformed, or willingly ignorant followers.

  104. Lea,

    I like to think of “institutional structures” as “garments” (a similar metaphor to Clevin’s metaphor of “exoskeleton”) that are “worn” by the congregation. The institution/garment is not “the church” itself; “the church” itself is the group that gathers from time to time for various agendas (such as the famous Hebrews 10 agenda of “encouraging one another to love and good works”).

    I find the “garment” metaphor helpful because it captures the ways that sometimes the garments one chooses to wear do not fit well and can interfere with what one wants or needs to do, and sometimes, if well-chosen, are perfectly fit for purpose. Clevin’s “exoskeleton” metaphor nicely captures the reality that institutions tend over time to become very rigid and constraining.

    If one were to do away with all forms of structure and “start from scratch”, I suspect that each group would spontaneously self-organize and find the pattern (which might over time turn into a “rut”) that was most suitable to the goals that the group wanted to pursue.

    So “structure”, which over time inevitably ossifies into “institution” may be inescapable. The question I think one needs to keep asking over time is whether they are “fit for purpose” or, more pointedly, “what is the purpose of the current structures that we see?” I think that one would find with disturbing frequency that the purposes that the structures currently serve diverge from the biblical vision of what local assemblies were meant to be for.

  105. Lea: I think you can find small organic gatherings within the larger church body though?

    That really is the only way a genuine believer can survive in most churches … to find and fellowship with other believers. Not everyone that goes to church is the Church.

  106. Just food for thought, but in our area many SBC folks are sitting on their wallets, have found good Sunday School class and good fellowship, but opt to skip the stage show formerly known as a worship or preaching service.

    Would assume no $ and no audience is gonna have an effect.

  107. Max,

    Exactly correct… I have yet to hear any of these “dude bros” make a compelling case for their “authority”…. the “keys” argument by the 9 Marks crowd is almost laughable … talk about taking a verse out of context…. the gospels clearly state, in multiple places, that Christ said he is “The way”….. not some 21 century preacher with “keys”??

  108. Mark Driscoll, Founder & President, Acts29 … Gone … ungodly and disqualifying behavior

    Darrin Patrick, Vice President, Acts29 … Gone … pastoral misconduct and historical pattern of sin

    Steve Timmis, CEO, Acts29 … Gone … abusive leadership style

    Matt Chandler, Current President, Acts29 … ?

  109. 2019-2020 Oneida Baptist Institute parent and student handbooks:

    [pdf] https://www.oneidaschool.org/pdf/admissions/Handbooks/Parent%20HB%2019-20%208.26.pdf

    p. 1 (3 of pdf)
    “please be careful in believing everything that your child says”

    “how to respond to your child on the phone…When your child complains about an unfair situation, ask, ‘So, what can you do?’ This puts the situation…back on the child”

    [pdf] https://www.oneidaschool.org/pdf/admissions/Handbooks/2019-20%20student%20handbook%209.10.19.pdf

    p.16 (18 of pdf)
    “Reporting Physical, Sexual, or Racial Abuse, Misconduct, or Harassment
    If you believe you have been physically or sexually abused or sexually or racially harassed during the school day, you are to report the alleged incident to a teacher or principal. If you believe you have been physically or sexually abused or sexually or racially harassed after school hours, you are to report the alleged incident to one of your houseparents, the Dean of Boys/Girls, or the Dean of Students.”

  110. brad/futuristguy: The evidence seemed clear that some of these best-seller books achieved that status at the same time he was involved in clergy sexual misconduct

    There’s a good number of bestsellers that are so only because the publisher or author bought thousands of books themselves. Driscoll did that. I wouldn’t put it past Tchividjian. So the publisher may have known they weren’t that good to begin with.

  111. TS00: Am I the only one who is beginning to suspect that wolves like Hybels and MacDonald are deliberately poisoning the wells, so that christians have no confidence in anything ‘churchy’? As folks leave the corrupt institutional church, the one thing left to try is home church. And now MacDonald is going to make sure no one trusts those.

    It certainly seems like it, but I’m not sure these guys are really that smart. I think they are just prime examples of the principle of stupidity–repeating the same mistakes over and over.

  112. elastigirl: that whole “servant leadership” thing is the theory. focusing on oneself by turning it into a vehicle for attention and self-validation is the practice.

    And, as you said in your previous post, money. Fame brings money. Books bring money. Conferences bring money. Leadership “consultants” bring money.

  113. Jerome: If you believe you have been physically or sexually abused or sexually or racially harassed during the school day, you are to report the alleged incident to a teacher or principal. If you believe you have been physically or sexually abused or sexually or racially harassed after school hours,

    I find the wording “if you believe” to be a bit disturbing. It’s almost as if the handbook is preparing the reader to be persuaded that their beliefs about what happened to them are not valid.

  114. Jeffrey Chalmers: I have yet to hear any of these “dude bros” make a compelling case for their “authority”… the gospels clearly state, in multiple places, that Christ said he is “The way”…

    It’s increasingly clear that the authority of Jesus is waning in the American church in general. It is basic New Testament doctrine that Jesus was given by the Father absolute authority over the church – complete Lordship of His Body. He has all authority in Heaven and in Earth.

    I dare say that Jesus has almost no authority in the New Calvinist movement … the “dude bros” don’t even mention His name much! You have to look long and hard to find the influence of Christ in the new reformation. Instead, the movement abounds with “influencers” (Driscoll, Piper, Mohler, etc.) and the average follower doesn’t have enough spiritual sense to discern the difference.

  115. I read the whole article over at CT which is quite long. I have no doubt that Acts 29 does have Driscoll’s “DNA” all over it. It is a church network to plant Satan’s churches and has nothing at all to do with the real Jesus Christ. I have found that Jesus’ actual servants always point others to Jesus and not to themselves. We are to be Jesus’ disciples and not the Pharisees disciples whom Jesus himself said this about: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.” Matt. 23:15

    Notice that “teachers of the law” is a very open ended phrase and this certainly applies to many whom call themselves “pastors” today. To me the only obvious qualification for these types of evil teachers is that they are hypocrites. They do not practice what they preach. Their orthopraxy stinks, so who cares what they claim to believe?

    I have only had one direct communication with the Holy Spirit in my life. The scene was a Christian bookstore and The Spirit was not impressed with it. The issue was the jealousy that God could see while all of those books were written. We cannot see that, but God can. Having envy and jealousy about the success and sales numbers and profits of other authors is something that God sees very clearly. Our motives matter to Him, so I wonder if every “Christian” book were burned would this place even be that much for the worse off for it?

    The removing of books in these cases is just trying to save face after the damage is already done. Actually having a conscience before God and wanting to repent to Him alone that we have sinned against has a very different look to it. Any book by any narcissist should have never been published in the first place, yet alone continued to be sold after it becomes common public knowledge that he is an abusive ass of a man.

  116. Max: It’s increasingly clear that the authority of Jesus is waning in the American church in general. It is basic New Testament doctrine that Jesus was given by the Father absolute authority over the church – complete Lordship of His Body. He has all authority in Heaven and in Earth.

    Another way to put it is, perhaps, that the fear of God is disappearing from the [professing] American pulpit. “God”, like Santa Claus, is maintained only as a brand.

    The truly noble and honourable exceptions are, to a first approximation, self-selecting because (again, to a first approximation) we’ve never heard of them. If my future hopes, shared by many followers of Jesus over the years, prove correct, then I look forward to meeting the exceptions.

  117. Clevin: Small, organic gatherings are where healthy relationships are found

    There are zillions of small churches around. Many are healthy. Many are quiet, not chasing members but letting people find them.

  118. Friend: There are zillions of small churches around. Many are healthy.

    Also…some people don’t *like* small churches and that’s ok? Maybe they are introverts or want some space. Maybe they want a lot of people to pick from in forming relationships. It’s nice to have options.

  119. Lea,

    I have been in small churches run by maniacs and large churches with great leadership. I think you approach a church like any relationship-research, try a couple things to see if it’s a good fit, and gradually up your commitment level. If at any time something occurs that is a real deal breaker, you may need to rethink the commitment. I’ve been in my current church for 20 years. It hasn’t all been wonderful, but overall it had been extremely positive. Our leadership listens and they adjust, but they also take a strong stand when necessary. Case in point-we have a strong childcare policy, with training, monitoring, background checks and greeters who also keep an eye out for people who shouldn’t be hanging around.

    My church is not a mega. A few hundred seems to be a good fit for me.

  120. Nick Bulbeck: The truly noble and honourable exceptions are … we’ve never heard of them.

    Yep, you’ll come closer to find genuine Christian leadership in obscure places, where real-deal pastors are not always tooting their horns for the applause of men.

  121. Clevin,

    “Small, organic gatherings are where healthy relationships are found”
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++

    you mean engineered intimacy isn’t required??

    i don’t have to wait for my leader to designate who my close friends are? to match me up with others to ‘do life together’ with our glossy workbooks telling us how to do intimate friendship in close community in 8 steps?

    (sarcasm mode on)
    ———————

    “The institutional model is an unnecessary exoskeleton we use to try to cage and contain an organic and dynamic living body.”
    +++++++++++++++++

    i like how you put that. yes, this ‘exoskeleton’ is cumbersome. an unnecessary heavy thing to have to wear.

    as cumbersome as a heavy engine with a drag on it, requiring so many resources to keep it going. an engine that runs very inefficiently, with many superfluous parts and functions that require fuel and resources.

    well, that heavy engine is the mission. which is to keep it going.

    quite frankly, that’s a stupid mission.

    it’s necessary if ‘church’ is an industry with profit centers to fund careers.

    it just isn’t smart.

    i’m tired of giving my life and my hard-won earnings so professional christians can have a job. a job that i observe sometimes pays much more than i make with less work actually
    being done and more perks.

  122. elastigirl,

    Another way to look at all of this is to reread the Beatitudes.. I wonder what would the church would be if the leaders just preached the words of Christ? Christ clearly states principles in the beatitudes and in the parables…. the problem is that they are tough/ impossible to fully follow… instead, as Max likes to state, the dude bros don’t preach Christ…. they preach their own “rules” so that they can have the last word… when was the last time we heard some “Piper quotes” that were based on the beatitudes or a parable?

  123. elastigirl: you mean engineered intimacy isn’t required??

    i don’t have to wait for my leader to designate who my close friends are? to match me up with others to ‘do life together’ with our glossy workbooks telling us how to do intimate friendship in close community in 8 steps?

    (sarcasm mode on)

    Your sarcasm mode is way too tame, mine would never clear customs.

  124. elastigirl,

    Yes, a far better solution for any Christian publisher lies in implementing careful vetting plus prevention measures before ever getting to the point of signing a contract — instead of the usual after-the-fact responses.

    Screen author candidates more closely beforehand for issues/allegations of abusive leadership. Have a specific line about abusive behaviors in a standard “moral turpitude” clause in every author contract (see link). Reader safety and publisher trust depend on it.

    https://stevelaube.com/what-to-do-about-morals/#sthash.1iK6T0hx.dpuf

  125. Lea,

    Just an FYI to the general you, one of the deacons in my church, formally part of a worship team at a mega church, said 94% of people attend a mega to hide within a church. And, the pastors of those churches know this.

  126. Fisher,

    Is your church reverting to an IFB church?

    My sister’s small church (100 or less) first pastor did that. He moved up from Texas, was a founding member of the Cowboy denominational church in the small town (3000 or less) my sister lived nearby. He also promised to stay. After a year or so he wanted to move the church 30 miles closer to the metro area. He wanted to grow big and fast. The congregation said we’re staying.

  127. Dee, I love this tutorial. Thanks. After finding my way out of a toxic ‘church’, the information I’m learning about how widespread this affects the Body is more and more saddening. I’m also seeing that I was given a great blessing by having the negative experience that I did. Yup, it was painful at the time, and it sucked to have to deal with a “family” in such a way, but I’ve been able to heal and grow since then. Now I’m able to ask pointed questions of people to hopefully point them to a safer, more positive, loving, caring place, even if that means “not attending”.
    I’m also seeing how pervasive these systems are. Out of the list of pastors/leaders that are members of A29, SGM, 9Marx, etc., it’s hard to go anywhere without being hit by their “influence”. I’ve drive truck for a living, so being able to listen to radio sermons/messages at many different times of day is something that I had enjoyed. Not so much these days. It’s hard to find some preacher who doesn’t peddle his book three or four times in a 30 minute broadcast. If it’s the first thing they talk about before even discussing the main topic, then the frequency gets changed. Some are better than others, but “guilty by association” comes into play…is this person part of TGC, A29, etc? There’s a radio station that’s based near my home area of Nevada. They cover “the Intermountain West”. (Pilgrim Radio). They have a steady lineup of dude bros or hangers on. And they’re firmly in that camp. I posted a comment on FB of an advertisement for some pastor coming up. [ “By promoting pastors who affiliate with the types of authoritarian “ministries” such as 9Marks, A29,SGM, TGC, etc., you promote the very type of bullying and pastoral abuse described in this article.”] I included the link to the CT article about Steve Timmis. Their response was not surprising:
    “While we appreciate your concern, and are grieved over the actions of Steve Timmis as described in the article, we must understand that this leader does not represent the actions of all pastors in the Acts 29 network nor is it condoned by them; as they have demonstrated by removing him. Bullying and intimidation are inappropriate for any Christian, whether a leader or not. Meanwhile, our focus at Pilgrim Radio is to present messages that will help listeners grow in their Christian faith and in their understanding of the Scriptures, including pastors from many different “networks” or denominations. May all of us in the Body of Christ grow in grace and truth as we submit our lives to Christ.”.

    The Sunday School tune “Be careful little eyes what you see, be careful little ears what you hear…” has renewed meaning for me lately.

  128. Brian,

    I Live/work abroad most of the time so am not close to the scene at this moment, but I’ve heard nothing from friends that indicate any move back to being independent. Most of the people who disagreed with the last pastor’s changes left. The rest didn’t seem to notice. Or care. One long term member had no idea what I meant when I used the word “complimentarian” even though that theology was regularly taught . His wife thought it would be lovely to read scriptures from the pulpit and was surprised to learn that was now forbidden.

  129. All this talk about leadership has me thinking about something that I learned just two years ago. That is that you never really know what you are dealing with in any leader until the time comes where you have a serious disagreement with them about something really important and clearly a matter of right and wrong where they are absolutely in the wrong. This blog exists because that is exactly what happened with Dee, where she found out her leaders were not their public appearances. Many here had the same rude wake-up call with someone else, somewhere else who also were not whom they claimed to be. Until their devotion to doing the right thing, no matter the cost, is actually tested, all you can see is an image. But who is the real man or woman behind that?

    Do they protect their public image at any cost? Are they too afraid of the congregation, or the board or the one rich donor to do the right thing when confronted with temptation or a test that is tough? Do they lie to you about caring about the issue to get you out of the office and then do nothing? Do they try to manipulate, lie, badger you into submission to a path that is simply evil? God does allow us to be tested so that others can see whom we really are, and sometimes we find out that we are better, or much worse, than we thought…

  130. Jerome: 2019-2020 Oneida Baptist Institute parent and student handbooks:

    The first thing they say they will teach your child: “Respect for Authority”.

  131. Samuel Conner:

    We don’t have to put up with bad leaders. They depend on us much more than we depend on them.

    They have no power that we do not voluntarily give them.

    Truth!

  132. Clevin: I have come to believe the institutional model is fundamentally flawed and needs to be abandoned by anyone who wants deep and meaningful Christian fellowship.

    A hearty amen to this, and to the entire comment. We are on the same page. A page I would have ripped out of my book a few short years ago.

  133. David: Bullying and intimidation are inappropriate for any Christian, whether a leader or not.

    Wow, this is how they chose the additional relevant point of how authoritarian leadership can bring more problems. Too often in some contexts it’s “listen to your leaders”, then when their actions are at issue, it’s “sin is sin” or some permutation therein.

  134. Max,

    “It’s increasingly clear that the authority of Jesus is waning in the American church in general. …

    … the “dude bros” don’t even mention His name much! …“influencers” (Driscoll, Piper, Mohler, etc.)

    and the average follower doesn’t have enough spiritual sense to discern the difference.”
    ++++++++++++++

    “church” has become a caricature of itself.

    “christian” has become a caricature of itself.

    it bothered for me for years — although i couldn’t pin it down, this thing that was bothering me.
    .
    .
    here’s a definition i found for what it is to be caricature of oneself:

    “When you become a caricature of yourself; you’re not really you anymore. You’ve morphed into a distillation of who you used to be. You’re a basic, oversimplified, and ugly version of yourself.”
    .
    .
    you know those plastic face masks that are kind of sheer, with exaggerated facial features and facial expression, that a group of burglers might all wear?

    the last 20 years in church, that’s what it felt like. it looks and sounds like what churches look and sound like. but it’s just a shell they put on.
    .
    .
    or, speaking of facemasks, anyone remember when The Six Million Dollar Man teamed up with The Bionic Woman to fight The Fembots?

    normal-looking and normal-acting women (and some men). they look and act right. you think you know them. then suddenly one of them would lose their face panel revealing eyeballs surrounded by all this metal circuitry (such a disturbing image). you thought they were regular people, but turns out they were robots. pre-programmed robots.

    this is exactly my experience with church.
    .
    .
    Church is now The Church franchise. they all look, sound, and run the same. they look like what “normal church” has evolved into. a pre-programmed robot.

    (i think i’m mixing metaphors. well, a day in the life of my mind is one long string of metamorphing metaphors in response to what’s happening.)

  135. Mr. Jesperson: you never really know what you are dealing with in any leader until the time comes where you have a serious disagreement with them about something really important and clearly a matter of right and wrong where they are absolutely in the wrong.

    There is so much wisdom in your words.

    I would add that anything can be “really important” to church folks (what time does the service start, who seats the worshipers…). In a healthy church, decisions are made after thoughtful discussion and maybe even disagreement.

    Places that won’t tolerate a discussion about seating the worshipers will also not tolerate a discussion about serious right and wrong. They are about control, not about love and true growth.

  136. elastigirl: here’s a definition i found for what it is to be caricature of oneself:

    “When you become a caricature of yourself; you’re not really you anymore. You’ve morphed into a distillation of who you used to be. You’re a basic, oversimplified, and ugly version of yourself.”

    “No wonder they put you on South Park. YOU ARE A CARTOON!”
    — KFI afternoon drive-time having an on-air altercation with Activist Lawyer Gloria Allred

  137. elastigirl: Church is now The Church franchise. they all look, sound, and run the same. they look like what “normal church” has evolved into. a pre-programmed robot.

    POD PEOPLE.
    Complete with the Point-and-Scream reaction when they detect an actual human in their midst.

  138. Brian:
    Lea,

    Just an FYI to the general you, one of the deacons in my church, formally part of a worship team at a mega church, said 94% of people attend a mega to hide within a church. And, the pastors of those churches know this.

    Well, first of all that’s not a real statistic and if the deacon isn’t a mega deacon, sounds kind of judgemental? But certainly there are people who want to blend in a bit. As I said, that’s ok.

  139. Brian: the Cowboy denominational church

    Wait, so that ‘cowboy church’ is a denomination??? I was talking to somebody about what it was the other day. There was something about an indoor rodeo that I didn’t quite understand.

  140. Fisher: His wife thought it would be lovely to read scriptures from the pulpit and was surprised to learn that was now forbidden.

    I hope she took that for a sign and considered getting out of dodge : (

  141. The early history of A29 between the time that David Nicholas started it and the time Driscoll took over (roughly late 1999 to 2005) is one of the most opaque aspects of its history. A couple of sources have verbally indicated Driscoll seemed to railroad David NIcholas out of Acts 29 and one source mentioned the two differed on the necessity of psychological testing measures to assess suitability for ministry.

    No one has been willing to clarify much for the record how and why Acts 29 went from being co-founded by Nicholas and Driscoll circa 2000 to just having Driscoll by 2005 and at least one written source I found described Acts 29 as strictly the vision of David Nicholas in 2000, which was a book that was likely prepared some time in 1999 if I have to venture a guess.

    In other words, it’s been hard to shake a sense that there’s key elements of the early history of Acts 29 we have not been privy to.

    Several presidents have been mentioned in the history of Acts 29 but has Scott Thomas been mentioned. He signed a letter of apology to Meyer and Petry for his role in what amounted to the kangaroo court trials they were subjected to in 2007. So it’s possible to argue the history of high-handed leadership in Acts 29 upper echelons has a more continuous history than the names mentioned so far.

    Early Acts 29 history has been one of the more mysterious topics related to the history of Mars Hill and I say that as someone who has had a history of being able to dig up a lot of material of historical interest.

  142. WenatcheeTheHatchet: history of high-handed leadership in Acts 29 upper echelons has a more continuous history than the names mentioned so far

    Certainly doesn’t sound like a movement initiated by the hand of God … humble leadership rather than “high-handed” leadership is more His style.

  143. Fisher: His wife thought it would be lovely to read scriptures from the pulpit and was surprised to learn that was now forbidden.

    When the new reformation first raised its ugly head in SBC life, my daughter (an accomplished singer and pianist) volunteered to participate in the praise and worship team for a local SBC church plant (it seemed like a noble thing to do – to plant a new church). She soon discovered the New Calvinist deception (we didn’t raise no dummy). She was permitted to read Scripture but it was required that she use an ESV Bible handed to her and she could offer no comment on what she read. That was the camel that broke the straw for her and she waved them all goodbye.

  144. Lea: so that ‘cowboy church’ is a denomination???

    SBC has several cowboy churches affiliated with it. They appeal to rural folks who aren’t comfortable in city churches – they like to keep their boots on. Some of these corrals have been accused of rustling cattle from other churches, attracting folks curious about that style of doing church. I suppose as long as the Name of Jesus is raised, they are OK. I’ve seen so many expressions of “church”, I’ve lost track of what the real one is supposed to look like. Strange days for an old man.

  145. TS00: Clevin: I have come to believe the institutional model is fundamentally flawed and needs to be abandoned by anyone who wants deep and meaningful Christian fellowship.

    A hearty amen to this, and to the entire comment

    I second that and also see it as something we need to recognize as the problem and not the solution.

  146. Megan:
    I just moved to the Dallas area from Raleigh, NC.While I am now of the covenant theology/reformed doctrine crowd (y’all don’t stone me!), I am in a DFW area reformed group on facebook.They shared this story, and the comments are spectacular.5 different people responded to the post that they or their family/friends had experienced this same heavy-handed behavior from leaders in their Acts29 churches.

    Of those who speak up in their Acts29 churches, I wonder how many are accused of gossip/slander.It’s funny how leaders default to that.

    I would like to hear these stories I have written about abuse at The Village Church & Watermark Church. Email me at; anna@noedenelsewhere.com

  147. I have since been censored/banned from posting any further comments on the FB page of the radio station I previously mentioned. That’s twice now since leaving the 9 Marx church I had been attending.

    Does three times get me a beginners ring or badge or something?

  148. Clevin: I have come to believe the institutional model is fundamentally flawed and needs to be abandoned by anyone who wants deep and meaningful Christian fellowship.

    Once you get to a “fellowship” of more than 100-150 (the human troop-size limit), some sort of institutional organization and hierarchy is inevitable. Because then your “troop” has grown to the point that the average individual doesn’t know everybody’s names and faces. At this point perception transitions from separate people to a number.

    Aside: The word “Fellowship” is another word almost unique to Christianese and overused within to the point it loses its meaning. Especially when it makes the jump from noun to verb, at which point it just sounds weird to those on the outside.

  149. Max: Certainly doesn’t sound like a movement initiated by the hand of God … humble leadership rather than “high-handed” leadership is more His style.

    As long as you don’t let Cee Jay Mahaney or Uriah Heep (the Dickens character, not the band) define “humble”.
    At that point, you’re getting into what Screwtape called “redefinition into diabolical meanings”.

  150. Lea: Wait, so that ‘cowboy church’ is a denomination??? I was talking to somebody about what it was the other day. There was something about an indoor rodeo that I didn’t quite understand.

    “I’m yo’ Huckleberry.”
    — Doc Holliday, Tombstone

  151. ishy: Is it just me, or is it so weird that even house churches end up with these weirdly controlling people?

    If you’re a control freak and can’t control a big congregation, you have to start small.
    JMJ/Christian Monist had some bad experiences (house church turning into a cult) along those lines.
    What happens is a house church is by definition small and independent.
    “Us Four, No More, Aaaa-men.”
    With no outside reality check if it starts going sour.
    Like how corrupt IFB churches are able to get away with so much – its just them, God, and NOBODY else.

  152. elastigirl: i don’t have to wait for my leader to designate who my close friends are? to match me up with others to ‘do life together’ with our glossy workbooks telling us how to do intimate friendship in close community in 8 steps?

    “Take your workbooks and turn with me
    To the chapter on Authority;
    Do you top the chain of command?
    Rule your family with an iron hand?
    Because a good wife learns to cower
    Beneath the umbrella of Power;
    Under cover of Heaven’s Gate
    I. MANIPULATE.”
    — Steve Taylor, “I Manipulate”

  153. Max:
    Mark Driscoll, Founder & President, Acts29 … Gone … ungodly and disqualifying behavior
    Darrin Patrick, Vice President, Acts29 … Gone … pastoral misconduct and historical pattern of sin
    Steve Timmis, CEO, Acts29 … Gone … abusive leadership style
    Matt Chandler, Current President, Acts29 … ?

    “WHO’S NEXT?
    WHO’S NEXT?”

  154. Lea: Wait, so that ‘cowboy church’ is a denomination??? I was talking to somebody about what it was the other day. There was something about an indoor rodeo that I didn’t quite understand.

    “American Fellowship of Cowboy Churches” is their denominational name. A friend of mine attends one. They still have a fairly patriarchal philosophy. Women aren’t allowed to be pastors or deacons.

  155. ishy: “American Fellowship of Cowboy Churches” is their denominational name. A friend of mine attends one. They still have a fairly patriarchal philosophy. Women aren’t allowed to be pastors or deacons.

    Thank you for the information but this patriarchal bit is disappointing : (

    (Not that I had any intention of attending a cowboy church).

  156. Lea: (Not that I had any intention of attending a cowboy church).

    Darn! And I had envisioned you as a cowgirl! 🙂

  157. Oh my gosh. This is *so* reminiscent of the hugely abusive shepherding-and-discipling movement, as manifested in the Boston Church of Christ, Sword of the Spirit, and the Catholic Charismatic Covenant Communities.

    When will people ever learn? This kind of thing is a recipe for truly destructive disaster. Which is one big reason why I do NOT support the so-called Benedict Option. When people start talking like this, run very fast in the opposite direction.

  158. Catholic Gate-Crasher: This is *so* reminiscent of the hugely abusive shepherding-and-discipling movement … When will people ever learn?

    When they decide to dig their own spiritual well through disciplined prayer and Bible study, rather than blindly trusting church leaders. Without that, they will never develop discernment to sort out the genuine from the counterfeit.

  159. Took some time to trawl through the Timmis coverage and some of the earlier Acts 29 history stuff in light of Jones’ writing.

    https://wenatcheethehatchet.blogspot.com/2020/02/christianity-today-acts-29-ceo-steve.html

    Last year Driscoll said he was labeled a thought leader in the young, restless Reformed scene by Time magazine with an insinuation that the liberal/secular media labeled him that way but he said the TULIP is garbage. But … if he changed his mind about Calvinist soteriology and switched to some other school of thought this has been done and there’s hardly any shame in conceding the point. That Driscoll opted to insinuate that the secular/liberal press labeled him Calvinist reminded me that it was never clear that Driscoll was even a co-founder of Acts 29, which was listed in an early account as a strictly David Nicholas project. So Mark can’t have it both ways, if he wants to act as though he wasn’t a Calvinist he’ll eventually have to explain why he was president of a church planting network that, in Andrew Jones’ account of its earliest years, required affirming the five points of Calvinism for funding (although Jones recounted that Nicholas gave to and supported non-Calvinist missionaries, too). If, as I have suggested in the past, Driscoll was famously not-Calvinist in the first years of Mars Hill and became just as Calvinist as he thought he needed to be to secure funding from David NIcholas that raises a new question, what relationships went sour with Antioch Bible Church in the late 1990s that would have spurred Driscoll to accept help from a pastor on literally the other side of the country? Driscoll shared that the early years of MHC were unstable and mercurial in Confessions of a Reformission Rev but the recent Timmis news is a reminder that Driscoll got as far as he did by selling people on supporting him who, in Jones’ recent account, came to have doubts about Driscoll’s character and who got sidelined so quickly we’ve heard little about them. David NIcholas’ exit from Acts 29 has remained one of the most opaque parts of Acts 29 and MHC history over the last twenty years. What little has been shared suggests that Driscoll did not so much found Acts 29 as accepted support from it and then took it over.

  160. WenatcheeTheHatchet,

    WenatcheeTheHatchet … reading your thoughts about Acts 29’s “founding” confirms how I’ve viewed Mark Driscoll, as basically being “spiritual tofu” — absorbing the flavor of whatever theological system would work best in his current situation to maintain his prominence and power.

    I first heard Mr Driscoll preach in 1997. Intriguing beginning point for me to keep track periodically of his ongoing history. Here’s the link and an excerpt from the post where I first shared that account.

    https://futuristguy.wordpress.com/2015/01/08/capstone-2-7-mark-driscolls-culture-of-contempt/

    I heard Mark Driscoll preach at the second Young Leaders Network national event, the GenX/Postmodern Ministry Forum in 1997. I’ve heard it suggested that Mark’s featured presentation on one evening may have been the tipping point for his reputation going viral. He mesmerized us with an amazing sermon, full of vivid images of how postmodernism emerges from the underground to influence culture and affect interpretations of Scripture. It seemed like performance preaching at its best!

    Far into the sermon, when Mark’s giftedness as a spellbinding speaker was undeniable, the man next to me turned and whispered, “This guy is really charismatic!” I nodded my agreement. He continued: “That could either be a really good thing, or a really bad thing. We’ll just have to wait to find out.”

    Sadly, now we know.

    In my opinion, Mark Driscoll’s charisma served as an attractive veneer that covered over his hardened personal toxicity. With that corrosive spiritual DNA, he founded and sustained his Mars Hill culture of contempt. So deep did that culture go, that it survived, even after he left, as I believe the dissolution action plans reveal. This is where the admonitions of the apostles become ever more poignant that we are absolutely not to have “leaders” over us who are violent, quarrelsome, pursuing dishonest gain (1 Timothy 3:1-12). All individuals and networks that Mark influenced would do well to reflect on this, and root out any and all destructive DNA that he implanted …

  161. WenatcheeTheHatchet: as I have suggested in the past, Driscoll was famously not-Calvinist in the first years of Mars Hill and became just as Calvinist as he thought he needed to be

    Driscoll has reinvented himself several times. He came onto the scene in the emergent church … from there he became resurgent … then submergent (when he fell from Mars Hill/Acts29). He’s now a charismatic whatever (hangs out with the AoG folks). He’s a character … he rules by his own authority and his people love it so.

  162. brad/futuristguy: absorbing the flavor of whatever theological system would work best in his current situation to maintain his prominence and power

    Mark Driscoll is a chameleon with a highly developed ability to change his color. His success depends on a following of folks who don’t have enough spiritual sense to discern who the real Driscoll is.

  163. WenatcheeTheHatchet,

    “What little has been shared suggests that Driscoll did not so much found Acts 29 as accepted support from it and then took it over.”
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    well, brighter shades of this cocky little gem:

    “we’re starting a record label, and we’re gunning to take over Christian radio.”

    what an arrogant little $h|t.

  164. elastigirl,

    There had already been a failed attempt at a Mars Hill music label by that point, elastigirl, and about a year after that boast the new boast was that Mars Hill was partnering with Tooth & Nail records. Every attempt at a music label sputtered out within roughly a year of launch. Starting a music label, contrary to 2013 or 2014 era claims, was always one of his goals in his vision-casting phase for early Mars Hill. Despite three attempts crashing and burning he may even now have not entirely given up on the idea of the music label.

    Max, having met him and interacted with him in person and via the Midrash site I prefer to say that Mark Driscoll has modified his public persona a few times without going quite as far as saying he’s reinvented himself. There’s been a pragmatism to his alliances. For instance, the partnership with David Nicholas circa 1998-2000 opens up its own set of questions. Since MHC was known to have been backed by Antioch Bible Church and Ken Hutcherson in its founding years how was it that things went so far south that Driscoll was open to accepting financial help from someone literally on the other side of the country from a denominational tradition he’d been known to reject (i.e. Calvinism)?

    To rephrase it, what led to an alienation between MHC and ABC so early in its history that Driscoll felt it was wise to partner with Acts 29? This might signal that along with having a history of shifting public affiliations based on financial support, there’s some precedent in the earlier years of Mars Hill for Driscoll having said or done something to alienate a donor or support base enough to feel a need to find new backers. It’s conceivable, perhaps, that William Wallace II antics convinced ABC leadership they should no longer back him, but Hutch has died and people from ABC have not commented on the record about that topic.

    For audio there’s a lot of stuff at marshill.se. Driscoll’s core take on Song of Songs has remained pretty steady over twenty years.

  165. Jeffrey Chalmers,

    “Watch some of the youtube videos of him at his “height” at Mars Hill!!”
    +++++++++++++++

    i’ll pass — best to keep one’s distance from the true fart in the elevator.

  166. WenatcheeTheHatchet: Driscoll’s core take on Song of Songs

    No one but a potty-mouth preacher from Seattle could come up with that interpretation … a porno misuse of Scripture … I’m sure there are still folks in Scotland wondering what happened to the American church to produce such characters as Driscoll!

  167. WenatcheeTheHatchet: Mark Driscoll has modified his public persona a few times … a history of shifting public affiliations based on financial support

    He is no doubt a very gifted false teacher.

  168. I think it would be kind to take down the elders names and faces from this article. Your point can me made without also publicly naming them. I am sure they have family’s and jobs to maintain as well as the fall out from this, without having their faces publicly associated forever with this. I think it would be kind to keep their faces private.

  169. Millbeck,

    If a person(s) have publicly posted their pictures and names on a church website, they have chosen to go public with their names. That means that they don’t get to use their names just when things are going well. I have a saying, If you play in the public eye, you pay in the public eye. That goes for me as well as anybody else. Nope. Their pictures stand. They were elders and they allowed this mess to continue.

  170. dee: They were elders and they allowed this mess to continue.

    That has been one of the more disturbing things to me as these sad church stories unfold … celebrity “pastors” who conduct themselves in an unChristlike manner, with “elders” who allow them to misbehave without rebuke. Together they do church without the authority of Christ.

  171. WenatcheeTheHatchet: Max, having met him and interacted with him in person and via the Midrash site I prefer to say that Mark Driscoll has modified his public persona a few times without going quite as far as saying he’s reinvented himself.

    “SEE CHAMELEON
    LYING THERE IN THE SUN —
    ALL THINGS TO EVERYONE
    RUN, RUN AWAY!”
    — Slade, “Run Runaway”

    Driscoll’s core take on Song of Songs has remained pretty steady over twenty years.

    The one constant of this Chameleon is his Sexual Proclivities.
    Which is why he will always be “Deep Throat Driscoll”.

  172. Max,
    It’s called “The Jesus Racket,” Max.
    And Abusicve Men of Power always have their entourage of Enablers.

  173. dee: If you play in the public eye, you pay in the public eye. That goes for me as well as anybody else.

    But these guys are working on “Heads I Win, Tails You Lose”.
    With “GAWD SAITH!” and “TOUCH NOT MINE ANOINTED!” as Cosmic-level backup.

  174. Max: Mark Driscoll is a chameleon with a highly developed ability to change his color.His success depends on a following of folks who don’t have enough spiritual sense to discern who the real Driscoll is.

    Never mind “spiritual sense”, Max.

    “There’s a sucker born every minute.”
    — P.T.Barnum

    “Four-one-Nine just a game;
    You be the Mugu,
    I be the Masta!”
    — “I Go Chop You Dolla”, Nigerian pop song about a con man
    (“Mugu” is Nigerian slang for “Fool”, in the sense of being an Easy Mark)

  175. Max: = Acts 29 “lead” pastors and their young “elders”

    Wearing their caps backwards and singing their new hymn: “Tomorrow Belongs to Me” from Cabaret.

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